, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 19 – Doctors, pharmacists and dentists from public hospitals across the country have now threatened to go on strike from December 5, unless the government agrees on a new scheme of service.
The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) is demanding a 300 percent salary hike for doctors, a 30 percent risk allowance as well as medical insurance cover.
“The basic pay will only cater for the daytime work hours of 8 to 5 pm, five days a week. The union proposes various allowances which include a call allowance. All the hours that doctors walk around hospitals in the dead of the night must be compensated,” the union demanded.
While regretting their decision, the union’s Secretary General Boniface Chitayi said it was necessary to compel the government to address their plight.
Efforts to negotiate better terms of service with the government for the last one year, he said had been futile, prompting the issuing of the industrial action notice.
“It has been stated that our profession is a calling but some hypocrites have used this excuse to exploit and oppress doctors,” Chitayi said while recounting the various occupational hazards that they face.
Should they make good their threat to down the tools, operations in public health facilities will be paralysed putting patients’ health in jeopardy.
The country has 2,300 doctors in public hospitals against a World Health Organisation recommendation of 40,000 designed to meet the one to 1,000 doctor-patient ratio.
The looming strike comes hot on the heels of a boycott by workers at the Kenyatta National Hospital who were demanding their five months accumulated commuter allowances arrears.
Industrial actions in Kenya are now becoming a common phenomenon in an ailing sector that is characterised by high child and maternal mortality, a shortage of medical practitioners, mass exodus of healthcare workers among other challenges.
It is estimated that about 200,000 Kenyans die every year due to the deplorable conditions of the health facilities which also lack basic investigative services such as X-Rays, hemogram and biochemistry.
The union’s chairman Victor Ng’ani attributed the sorry state of affairs to a declining budgetary allocation to healthcare. In the 2011/2012 financial budget, allocation to the sector stood at 5.5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) compared to the seven percent share in the 2009/2010 budget.
“We are unable to fund training of medical professionals; we are unable to pay the staff better. In a country where we a shortage of 40,000 nurses, we have more than 10,000 un-employed nurses in government today,” he complained.
Kenya, he pointed out is one of the countries that have not met the 2001 Abuja Declaration that included a pledge to set aside 15 percent of the national budget to healthcare.